Boredom Busters

Visit Kid-Friendly Dumbo

One of my absolute favorite things to do with the kids on a nice day is to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge into Dumbo. This excursion has all the makings of a perfect day out with the kids; a little relaxing exercise, great ice cream and pizza, a great park and a boat ride. I can't think of a better way to spent a day.

This weekend is an especially good time because Saturday, June 2nd is the Dumbo Block Party. So pack up some sunscreen and water (in your new aluminum water bottles and head to the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. (You can start from Brooklyn and follow this backwards if you prefer.)

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge is stroller friendly, just stay right, out of the bicycle lane.. You can stop under the arches to take in the view, snap some photos and read the plaques which describe some of the amazing history of the Bridge. When you get toward the other side, your first opportunity to exit will be a set of stairs. Take the stairs down from the walk way and walk around the corner and back toward the waterfront.

If you're hungry from your walk, stop by Grimaldi's Pizza, considered by many to be NYC's best pizza. Then walk over to Brooklyn Bridge Park which has a great playground, a pebble beach with lapping waves and all, a large lawn surrounded by a sculpture garden and incredible views.

If you're in the mood for shopping head over to ultra-hip children stores Half Pint and Pomme (this store is now closed. If you can resist buying anything, then you definitely deserve a chocolate reward from artisan chocolatier Jacques Torres Chocolates.

At 56 Water Street, gaze at the beautiful and fully restored original Coney Island Carousel. Rides are not allowed until they find permanent home for it, however, so you might want to avoid this just as much if you've got a little one ready for a melt-down.

But, tears will come to a screeching halt if you head back toward Fulton Ferry Landing for ice cream at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. The ice cream here is unbelievable. If you ever splurge on a sundae, this is the place to do it. The caramel tastes like crГѓВЁme brulee topping and the fudge is out of this world.

When you've had enough, the easiest, fastest and most fun way to get back to Manhattan is to just hop on the Water Taxi to the South Street Seaport or around the harbor to another destination in Manhattan. Kids especially like to ride upstairs in the open air.

MOMMY POPPINS TIP: The story of the Brooklyn Bridge is really quite amazing and has lots of elements that kids will love. Here are a couple of book ideas for children of different ages that will add an additional layer of interest and excitement for kids when visiting the Brooklyn Bridge.

Twenty-One Elephants is a picture book that tells the story of a little girl who helps convince grown ups to trust that the bridge will hold. It is well researched and based on the real story of PT Barnum's participation in the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Brooklyn Bridge:The Story of the World's Most Famous Bridge and the Remarkable Family That Built It tells the amazing story of the construction of the bridge for older kids. It is part of a series of Wonders of the World Books.

The Dangerous Book for Boys, a Safe Bet for Father's Day

The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden is like a brain scan of a twelve year old boy 30 years ago. It's filled with fun and educational information like The Greatest Paper Airplane in the World, The Five Knots Every Boy Should Know, Slingshots, Making a Bow and Arrow, Timers and Tripwires, Famous Battles-Including Lexington and Concord, The Alamo, and Gettysburg, Spies-Codes and Ciphers, Navajo Code Talkers' Dictionary, Stickball, Fossils, The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and Skimming Stones; the stuff every kid used to know and now it seems like none do.

If you live in the city, you may be wishing your child had a backyard so you could take advantage of this kind of fun. But, I believe that this stuff is just as doable in the city, and maybe even more important for city kids. Just about any of the activities in the book are just as doable in NYC as anywhere. Go skim stones in central park, fishing in the Harlem Meer, or stickball in the schoolyard. Kids used to own the streets of NYC. Maybe it's about time they took them back.

Encouraging kids to get back outside playing traditional games, The Dangerous Book for Boys is finding itself part of a wider resurgence to restore the innocence of childhood and child play. In these days of earlier and more frequent high-stakes testing, over-scheduled childhoods some parents are starting to push back. Several groups have been formed to promote the slowing down of childhood. New York Voices for Childhood is a group of parents and educators that have joined together to lobby the schools to make old-fashioned play part of the curriculum. I don't know if it's appropriate or ironic that they don't have a website, but if you are interested in joining or finding out more you can find their contact information here.

Freakonomics: What Makes a Prefect Parent?

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner is a book that’s been around for a while, but I figure if I’ve just gotten around to reading it there are plenty of others who haven’t read it either. I had heard the buzz about this book, but hadn’t really paid much attention to it until one of my fellow PTA uber-moms told me that the book says that being on the PTA is the most significant thing you can do to assure academic success for your children. Well, that got my attention.

It turned out that her interpretation was a little bit self-serving, but it got me to read the book, and it is a great book, so I forgive her. If you haven’t read Freakonomics I highly recommend you pick it up.

You could say Freakonomics is either a book that takes a unique look at the world through the eyes of an economist, or is a unique take on economics by using it to look at the world - depending on whether you are an economist or a civilian. If you are a parent, especially an obsessive, urban parent, you will be quite anxious to read the chapter entitled, "What Makes a Perfect Parent?"

Find More Teachable Moments With Your Kids

We've been talking about the best schools in NYC on this site all month, but many experts will tell you that what happens at home is much more important than what school a child goes to. You don't have to be a homeschooler to find teachable moments during the course of your regular day. But, where do you begin? How do you know what to do and how? What is appropriate and at what ages?

Even though we don't homeschool, I like to read a homeschool curriculum each year. I read the outline of what the course will be focusing on and copy down the reading list. Then I keep those themes in the back of my mind and look for opportunities to work them in to our everyday. I get the books on the reading list from the library and those become our bedtime or anytime books. I find that this helps me feel involved in my children's education and also makes me feel confident that they are on track by my standards, not slipping through the cracks.

Up until now I have mostly focused on the social sciences because I think the schools do a good job of teaching reading and math in the early grades. The book that I like to follow is called The Well-Trained Mind and it is based on a Classical Education. Click on the link for an in depth definition of a Classical Education, but it basically means that the early years are spent absorbing the basic facts that every well-educated person should know and only later do students focus on expressing themselves creatively.

What do Hipster Parents Sound Like to Kids?

Simon Rich has written a hysterical version of what grown up conversation sounds like to kids in this week's New Yorker Shouts and Murmurs. It made me think about how much I enjoy The New Yorker now and how much I hated it as a kid.

In tribute to Simon Rich's piece, here's how I imagined my parents when reading The New Yorker as a kid:

DAD: This magazine is so great. It has so many words in it.

MOM: Look at the cover. It makes no sense. That's so clever.

DAD: (laughing) And, this cartoon isn't funny. That's the kind of cartoon I like, black and white cartoons that aren't funny.

MOM: I have an idea. Let's pick a movie based on these reviews to take the kids to. They'll love that.

OK. That got my juices flowing, so let's keep going with this.

Best Educational Toys for NYC Kids

Nowadays it seems like every hunk of plastic they sell at a toy store is marked educational. Sure, LeapFrog Toys are probably good and all that (I don't know if they'll teach your kid to read or anything), but what a NYC kid really needs is toys that will teach him to survive and thrive in the City. So Mommy Poppins' intrepid shoppers have gone out to find some of the best educational toys for NYC kids.

City Alphabet Books:Required Reading for the Urban Diaper Set

The urban blogging parents at Sweet Juniper have upped the ante on urban alphabet books. (via apartmenttherapy) Avoiding the trite apples and boa constrictors, they didn't just set the alphabet in the city, but used urban graffiti of hipster parent appropriate images. Look for H is for Homeless, I is for Icarus, and J is for Jew.They just did this for themselves, but due to popular demand, have made copies available for purchase via lulu, the self-publishing site.

Inspired, Mommy Poppins sought out the other great Urban Alphabet Books:

Off the Cuff Links:Play Forts

A collection of links on a random topic.

Forts are a great imagination-building activity for city kids on a cold winter day - or any day. Here's a collection of links to get your imagination going:

Wondertime (via nursery.apartmenttherapy) article featuring three different ways to build forts.

For the ambitious, check out MrMcGroovys awesome fort plans including instruction for cardboard castles and, perfect for city kids, skyscraper forts.

Playhut pop-up forts are perfect for apartment dwellers. One minute you have a suburban-style playroom, then fold it up, tuck it in the closet and nobody even knows you have kids.

For one dad's take on the fun of forts check out Ryan's Rage blog post, "Busy Hellions".

For more fort-building ideas pick up a copy of The Kid's Guide to Building Forts from Amazon.

Find more great activities like this in our Indoor Activities Guide.

 

 

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